"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

4th SUNDAY OF LENT (A) March 31, 2019

1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41

By Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

When the disciples saw the blind man begging they treated him as a topic for conversation and inquiry. His blindness, not the fact that he was a suffering person, was the focus of their attention. They asked Jesus about the reason for his blindness. "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?"

People of the time believed that a physical infirmity was the result of sin, committed either by the person, or the parents (Exodus 20:5). The disciples are in for a surprise. They never could have imagined that the afflicted man would play a part in revealing God’s wonderful works on our behalf.

Are we so far removed from the thinking that blames a person for the misfortune they bear? In our "enlightened" world don’t people still think that poverty, and its resulting maladies like sickness and short life span, are the fault of the poor? (And aren’t those physically or sexually abused sometimes blamed for what they "provoked" in others? "She wouldn’t have gotten raped if she hadn’t dressed that way.") As long as people think in this way, they won’t look deeper into the economic, cultural or political reasons that keep poor people and whole nations in a permanent underclass. Such attitudes about poverty’s sources will also prevent people from doing something to change oppressive conditions for groups of people in our own cities and for nations in other parts of the world.

Jesus casts light on such darkness and answers their question, "Neither he nor his parents sinned." The blame lies elsewhere; maybe even on the very people who are blaming others for their dire conditions! God is not punishing the man for sin; indeed, God wants to do something that will deliver the man from his blindness. After enlightening his disciples, Jesus sets about changing the man’s condition. So, he cures two forms of

blindness. He enables both the man to see and his disciples to get a different perspective.

Jesus doesn’t just see one person who is ill. He sees another example of the human condition he has come to alleviate. The blind man is a symbol – he represents us, for we do not see. Blindness is a universal ailment that afflicts humanity. We are blind to God’s presence in our lives; to the needs of our neighbors; to people of other races, religions, nationalities etc. In our blindness, we would rather build walls of separation and construct social barriers than welcome the stranger into our midst and address the needs of the refugee.

The healing happens quickly. Jesus gives the man his physical sight, but that is just the first step on the man’s journey to spiritual sight. In the confrontation he has with the Pharisees the man will continue to progress – from his newly acquired physical sight to spiritual sight. He will see who Jesus is and come to faith. While the Pharisees will progress even further into their blindness. They think they know it all, when in fact they are not even aware that they know nothing. They are in the dark. On the other hand, throughout the story the man admits his ignorance about many things. In doing that, unlike the Pharisees, he is open to change. After he is thrown out by the Pharisees Jesus returns to him. He admits his need to Jesus, "Who is he sir that I may believe in him?" Jesus reveals himself to the man who then does him reverence. The former blind man has come to sight in many ways, as he goes from unbelief to faith.

It is a challenging gospel story. Is it possible that the places we think we are seeing clearly, we are not? Listen to the gospel: the ones, who were sure they knew what was going on, the Pharisees, were blind. They were religious experts, but they missed the truth staring them in the face. The one who is confounding them and turning their world upside down was really God, trying to open their eyes and set things right.

What confounds us, raises questions, upsets our routine? These may be the very places God is trying to open our eyes and give us vision; set things right for us. The story of the blind man coming to sight gives us pause to ask ourselves: How well do I see? Do I see what is really going on in my life? Has a road I have been traveling taken an unfamiliar turn and I’ve lost my way? Are things happening to me that make me trip and stumble like a person walking and groping in the dark? The world is filled with bright lights and glitter. They blind us to what’s important, lasting and best for us. We ask ourselves: what is blurring my vision these days? What’s dulling my appreciation of life?

The blind man’s story replays our own. We made the same journey he did. We were led to a pool of water, washed there and words were spoken over us, "I baptize you…." This began the journey guided by the sight we received in those waters. In baptism we were given a clearer sight with which to look at our world. What do we see as a result of that washing at the pool? Has the sight we received in the washing affected our priorities and life choices?

Because our eyes have been opened we see that people of other races and nations (even those some name as enemies) are our sisters and brothers. We see that having all we ever wanted can leave us dissatisfied and poor in God’s sight. We see that even in sickness and old age there is great value and beauty. We see that God is not someone on high to fear, but someone up close who walks our life with us in loving companionship. We see the people we value are not always the ones others call "important." Like the blind man the waters have opened our eyes and we see with the eyes of Jesus, who is light for a dark world.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032617.cfm

QUOTABLE

Almighty God, restore the dignity of our human condition,

long disfigured by excess but now restored by the

discipline of self denial.

—Missal of Pius V

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.

2 Corinthians 5:20

In this passage, Paul invites us to celebrate the way in which God has reconciled all things to himself in Christ so that we can become a new creation in Christ. How wonderfully appropriate to this Sunday of rejoicing (Laetare Sunday). Also known as Rose Sunday, we are given a glimpse at the wonderful new beginnings that come with Easter resurrection.

In the Second Reading, where this passage is found, the Greek word katallasso means "to reconcile" or "to decisively change." We are the ones called to reconcile and change what makes us less Christ-like. How can we be ambassadors for Christ if our lives do not reflect the actions of Jesus? This is especially true in our response, or lack of response, to the oppressed, the poor, the outcasts, and the other.

The Catholic faith is both vertical in our relationship with God AND horizontal in our relationships with our fellow human beings and our living earth. Devotion to God is incomplete without the horizontal awareness that God is present in every aspect of God’s creation. We can see this in the example that Pope Francis offers (1/21/18): "Jesus walks through the city with his disciples and begins to see, to hear, to notice those who have given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption. He begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope. He calls his disciples and invites them to set out with him. He calls them to walk through to the city, but at a different pace; he teaches them to notice what they had previously overlooked, and he points out new and pressing needs. Repent, he tells them. The Kingdom of Heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people. He gets involved and involves others not to be afraid to make of our history a history of salvation" (cf. Mk 1:15, 21). This is what it means to act as an ambassador for Christ.

What injustice have you ignored in our own greater community? Need some places to put your energy for the work of Christ on earth? Check out the many ministries we have outside the walls of our parish on our website: http://www.raleighcathedral.org/social-justice-programs

Pass on the hope that you have received.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

4th SUNDAY OF LENT (A) March 31, 2019

1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41

By Jude Siciliano, OP

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

[Jesus said to the blind man]

"Go wash in the Pool os Siloam" – which means Sent –

So he went and washed and came back able to see.

Reflective Questions:

The story of the blind man coming to sight gives us pause to ask ourselves:

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make a secure online donation: https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com/ - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

 

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626